Full Time
6:00pm Fri June 14, 2024
Round 15 - GIO Stadium Canberra, Bruce / Ngunnawal - Crowd: 9671

Round 15: The Cowboys hobble down south to take on resilient Raiders

Two of the most intriguing teams in the comp meet for the first time in 2024, with the North Queensland Cowboys travelling to the nations capital to play the Canberra Raiders.

The Cowboys started the year flying out of the blocks, winning their first three games and mimicking the purple patch they enjoyed in the middle of their 2023 campaign. 

The strong start wasn't maintained, however, as the side riddled with Origin stars has slumped to a lowly twelfth, with questions on Todd Payten's future getting louder, particularly following their 42-12 defeat to the underdog Warriors in round 15.

Canberra come off the bye, enjoying the two points catapulting them into fifth, in a season where Ricky Stuart's men defied expectations to be seven wins from thirteen games, despite niggling injuries to some of their stars. The tenacious competitors continue to write off the critics, but the Cowboys can be unpredictable, and despite their success, the Raiders have a habit of dropping games they should win.

With a near unchanged 17 from their victory a fortnight ago, the hosts are confident for a convincing win the edge them closer into a top four spot. They're bolstered only by the return of Hudson Young, who pushes Ata Mariota to the bench and Simi Sasagi to the reserves.

For the visitors, their team sheet looks far cleaner than it did against the Warriors, with the removed complication of Origin providing a more straight forward lineup for North Queensland. Murray Taulagi slots back onto the wing, as does Reece Robson at hooker. Jordan McLean returns from a calf injury to start in the front row, pushing Griffin Neame to the bench. Origin star Jeremiah Nanai moves to the run on side, and Kulikefu Finefeuiaki moves to the interchange. 

Last meeting: Round 1 2023 - Cowboys 19 Raiders 18

Who to watch: When he's good, he's near unstoppable, but Marquee centre Valentine Holmes has struggled in 2024 by his own lofty standards, with some poor defensive showings and attacking performances where he's struggled to unlock his full potential. Canberra struggle with conceding big at times, and Holmes will no doubt look to capitalise on this.

With young halves Jake Clifford and Thomas Duffy coming through, pressure is mounting on former club captain Chad Townsend to step up. With there being no doubt he's in the twilight of his career, it's now or never for Chad to prove he's got more to give in the NRL. 

In an interesting matchup, his opposite number Kaeo Weekes is making the halfback jersey his own in Jamal Fogarty's absence. Originally dubbed to play fullback or 5/8, Kaeo's versatility and ability to step up has been admirable. Winning the play making duel against such an experienced campaigner will no doubt do wonders for his confidence. 

As Cameron Murray returns from injury, Hudson Young and his Origin future has come into question. He's been a prolific try scorer at Canberra, crossing for 7 tries this season. With the Cowboys having questionable edge defence at times, Hudson has a golden opportunity to stake his claim for further representative honours.

Favourite:The Canberra Raiders are the clear favourite to win at home. 

My tip: Despite boasting one of the strongest sides on paper, the Cowboys look clunky and disjointed. An away trip to Canberra will surely prove too much. Raiders by 14.

1. Jordan Rapana 2. Nick Cotric 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Sebastian Kris 5. Xavier Savage 6. Ethan Strange 7. Kaeo Weekes 17. Emre Guler 9. Danny Levi 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Morgan Smithies 8. Josh Papali'i 14. Tom Starling 15. Ata Mariota 16. Trey Mooney 18. Albert Hopoate

1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Viliami Vailea 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 19. Harrison Edwards 9. Reece Robson 10. Reuben Cotter 11. Heilum Luki 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Sam McIntyre 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Kulikefu Finefeuiaki 17. Griffin Neame 20. Tomas Chester